April 14, 2014

Birth of Anna Pierpont Siviter: such running

Francis Harrison Pierpont was known as the "Father of West Virginia" for his toil advocating for the new state split from Virginia. He served as the first provisional governor of those counties in west Virginia who did not side with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Before all that, however, he was a father. In particular, his daughter was born on April 14, 1858, in what was then Fairmont, Virginia, now part of West Virginia. After her marriage in 1886, she was known as the author Anna Pierpont Siviter (pictured here at age 8).

Young Anna went to school in southwestern Pennsylvania at the Washington Female Seminary (the same institution earlier attended by Rebecca Harding Davis). Her husband was the editor of a newspaper in Pittsburgh and an occasional humor writer; she began contributing both poetry and prose to various periodicals as well. She also edited several publications for use in Sunday schools. Possibly her most popular work in her lifetime was the book Nehe, a Tale of the Times of Artaxerxes (1901), a tale set in Persia inspired by the Biblical Nehemiah, and dedicated to her famous father. Several years later, when her father was honored with a statue in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (pictured at left), she wrote a poem for its unveiling which was presented by her daughter. The poem was less of a highlight of her father the governor, and more of an ode to West Virginia itself, including this stanza:

In the shout and din of battle, she was born, the brave, free State;
Humble men stood sponsor for her, but their every deed was great—
West Virginia, child of Freedom, lift your happy head on high;
Truth and Justice are your birthright; you were born to Liberty.

In Pittsburgh, Siviter also worked with several local Red Cross chapters, founded a kindergarten association, was a founding board member of the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, joined the Daughters of the American Revolution, and various other civic organizations. Among her published books are The Sculptor, and Other Verses, Songs of Hope, Songs Sung Along the Way, and, posthumously, Recollections of War and Peace. She also contributed two recipes for a cook book. Her poem "Doggie and the Burglars" was found in a Wichita newspaper in 1899:

The house was dark and silent
    When Mr. Doggie woke.
"I thought," said Mr. Doggie,
    "For sure that some one spoke.

"I think," said Mr. Doggie,
    "That I will take a walk.
It's very trying in the night
    To think that you hear talk.

"Let's see," said Mr. Doggie;
    "My master's gun I'll take.
I do not mean to use it,
    But for appearance sake."

So forth went Mr. Doggie,
    And how he bowwowed when,
Just getting in the window,
    He found two robber men.

And when the thieves saw coming
    That big dog and his gun
You never saw such running
    As those scared men did run.

*Note: I had difficulty confirming the birth date of Anna Siviter; some sources list her birth year as 1859, only one offered the April 14 date. The image of young Anna comes from a booklet produced by Pierpont Community and Technical College.

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